Australian soldier sues 3 media firms over Afghan war crimes allegations

Ben Roberts Smith arrives at the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney for the start of his defamation trial

Ben Roberts Smith arrives at the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney for the start of his defamation trial

The ex-Special Air Service trooper is suing Nine-owned newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times over allegations he committed battlefield crimes while on deployment in Afghanistan, which he vehemently denies.

His only response was to thank a lone, elderly supporter who wished the Victoria Cross recipient "good luck" in the upcoming two-month trial.

Ben Roberts-Smith's relationship with one of his solicitors has been questioned by a judge.

He told the court Australia is a country which prides itself on its military prowess, but behind that was the fact "war is violent". Campbell said the soldiers would then plant weapons and radios to support false claims that the prisoners were enemies killed in action.

"We are very proud of him for the father and son that he is".

"The simple fact is that some who've reported on matters concerning my client have forgotten that fact, the violence of war, in the rush to tear him down", he said.

Ben Roberts-Smith left the army in 2013 and is now the general manager of the Seven Network, a media company, in Brisbane and regional Queensland.

He also described as "ludicrous" allegations Mr Roberts-Smith could have killed an unarmed man outside "in full view" on a mission.

"This is a case about courage, devotion to duty, self-sacrifice", Mr McClintock said in reference to his client.

"It's something that would be said by an ostentatious psychopath".

"There really can be nothing more serious than that", the barrister said.

Mr McClintock told the court that claims against his client lacked evidence, were made in bad faith and had not been removed by the respondents.

Mr McClintock said that it was not rare for disabled Taliban fighters to be present on the battlefield.

In a statement issued on Sunday afternoon, the extremely private Mr and Mrs Roberts-Smith labelled the allegations against their son "false" while also for the first time telling of the impact on them and their son.

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Sydney Morning Herald editor Lisa Davies and Nine's Executive Editor of Australian Metro Publishing James Chessell leave Federal Court.

Nine dropped a seventh murder claim - that he swam across a river, chased an unarmed Afghan man into a cave and killed him on September 11, 2012 - days before the trial was due to begin.

Mr McClintock said it was "outrageous" for a media company to make an allegation like that and then withdraw it with a "blithe wave of the hand" a month before the trial. He is seeking damages in Australia's Federal Court from Nine Entertainment Co. and three journalists.

He told the court the woman, who can not be named, was so drunk she'd fallen down the stairs.

One of Ben Roberts-Smith's solicitors, Monica Allen.

Roberts-Smith filed his libel suit soon after the publication of these articles, denouncing their allegations as "false", "baseless", and "completely without any foundation in the truth".

Australia's military and police are both investigating numerous war crimes alleged to have been committed by members of elite SAS soldiers in Afghanistan.

During his fifth tour of duty in Afghanistan, Mr Roberts-Smith had drawn enemy fire away from pinned-down members of his patrol, stormed two enemy machine-gun posts and silenced them.

Mr McClintock said other soldiers had been "enormously jealous" about the honours awarded to Mr Roberts-Smith - which include the Victoria Cross - and had sought revenge with claims he "broke the moral and legal rules of military engagement".

He was a soldier who "deservedly had a high reputation of courage, skill and decency".

The court heard he was left one "puerile" note which read "BRS is after another medal".

Newspaper reports in 2018 alleged Ben Roberts-Smith murdered a man in Afghanistan and encouraged his colleagues to drink beer from his victim's prosthetic leg.

Mr McClintock has suggested her appearance is about airing the family's "dirty laundry" and warned he will have to call Ms Roberts a "liar".

Mr Roberts-Smith's ex-wife Emma has "flipped" and is giving evidence for Nine Entertainment. "Person 10 turned out to be a poor soldier".

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